Topic: Social Justice
What is POCSO Act 2012?
POCSO Act 2012: The POCSO Act 2012 or Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 aims to protect children from Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment and Pornography with due safeguard the well-being and interest of children. The Act is Gender-neutral and defines a child as a person below 18 years of age.
What are the amendments proposed in the POCSO Act 2012?
The Union cabinet has recently approved some amendments in the POCSO Act 2012. These amendments seek to make the punishment for committing sexual offences against children more severe to deter the rising trend of child sex abuse in the country. Section 4, Section 5, Section 9, Section 14, Section 15 and Section 42 are proposed to be amended. The proposed amendments are:
- Sections 4, 5 and 6 is proposed to introduce Death penalty as a punishment for offences of penetrative sexual assault and aggravated penetrative sexual assault to discourage sexual abuse of children.
- Section 9 of the Act is also proposed to be amended to save children from sexual offences during natural calamities and disasters.
- Section 9 of the POCSO Act is also proposed to be amended to make any attempt to inject hormones in children to make them major as an aggravated offence.
- It is also proposed to amend Section 14 and 15 of the act to provide for imposition of hefty fines for not deleting, not destroying child pornographic material or not reporting child pornography.
The amendments proposed are expected to act as a deterrent against the rising child sexual abuse cases by providing stronger penal provisions. It will protect the interests of the vulnerable children ensuring their safety and dignity.
Concerns with the recent amendments:
- Unlike other criminal cases, cases under POCSO carries the presumptions of guilt of the accused. Instead of “innocent until proven guilty”, the court assumes that the accused is guilty once the prosecution lays the foundation of the case. Imposing the death penalty for such offences that already carry such stringent presumptions violates the basic right to life guaranteed by the Constitution.
- Also, the judicial process is lengthy and expensive in India and it will be very difficult for poor and disadvantaged people to counter these presumptions and prove their innocence without quality representation.
- The Act also presumes that the accused person had a sexual intent when touching the child (Section 30).
- The 262nd Law Commission Report has recommended for the universal abolition of capital punishment, except in terror cases.
- There is no evidence that the death penalty can reduce the incidences of sexual abuse of children, in the absence of better policing and shorter trials.
The Child Sexual Abuse is a serious problem in the country and can be described as an epidemic. But Introducing the death penalty under POCSO is not the solution to end this problem. It will only result in sending poorer, lower caste and religious minority accused to death row.